Each year, we rely on a panel of judges to evaluate the contest entries. We welcome professionals from the literary, educational and the art world. 

Thank you for volunteering your time and talent, and for making all these years a success.

Below are some of them who brought their expertise, support and encouragement.

We all have something to learn from one another.


Michelle Kouzmine lives in Miami with her partner and two children. She holds a BA in Russian
Literature from The George Washington University and a MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University in Cambridge. Her short stories and essays have appeared in publications both online and in print. Michelle helps college applicants discover, write, and polish their college application essays by focusing on each student’s unique story at



Margaret Cardillo is an award winning children’s book author and screenwriter. She holds degrees from Boston College and the University of Miami. Her first children’s books, “Just Being Audrey” and “Just Being Jackie”, have been awarded and recognized by the Florida Book Awards and Texas Bluebonnet. The film rights for “Just Being Audrey”, a biography of Audrey Hepburn, went to Lionsgate where it is currently in development. A former book editor, Margaret now teaches screenwriting at the University of Miami. You can visit her online at



Patricia Alfonso Tortolani is an experienced content creator, editor, and brand strategist who has developed ideas and innovative concepts that fueled revenue for both Conde Nast and premier beauty companies.
Born in New Haven, Connecticut and raised in Miami, she started working in magazines just after she graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in photography.
Today she reports, writes, and edits features for “Allure”, but most importantly she is an ideas machine. helping to shape the editorial direction of the brand. 



Maureen Fura is a lover of hearing and telling stories. She is a seasoned storyteller. She was the writer, director, and producer of the award-winning documentary film, “Dark Side of the Full Moon”, which was an official selection in seven film festivals. Her written pieces have appeared in two anthologies and she has told five stories on the Lip Service stage. She has given a TEDx Talks and was also the curator for TedxMonterey where she curated other storytellers stories. Maureen’s full-time job is as the CEO ofMammha which she founded, a complete and comprehensive maternal mental health care service.



“For 30 years, I’ve written award-winning, and strategic business communications for clients in the not-for-profit, restaurant, energy efficiency and healthcare arenas. I enjoy the challenge of finding great stories in unlikely places and sharing them with the world. But after many years, I found myself eager to try something new. I earned a master’s degree in education.  After a few years I realized that I missed writing. My first novel, “Square Roots” ties my careers in writing and teaching together.”



Adrienne Curson has been in love with books, reading, and writing for as long as she remembers. With a BA in English Literature from FIU via University of Miami and St. Clare’s Hall in Oxford, Adrienne’s first job was managing “Doubleday” bookstores in New York City for thirteen years. She ran a feminist bookshop in Woodstock, NY, opened and ran the English Book department of a bookshop & art gallery in San Juan, and opened the first “Books & Books Cafe” with Mitch Kaplan on Lincoln Road twenty years ago. Adrienne started a women’s feminist reading group in Miami thirty-three years ago, which is still in existence. She has been a member of a creative writing group for over six years.



Jonas Jonasson graduated from New York University having studied  film and television at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and in London at the BBC. He has since then continued to be a New Yorker residing in the East Village working along musicians, artists, and sculptors. Jonas has done stints in film, radio, and video production, as well as wardrobe styling, and set designs for films and off Broadway shows. He is an avid reader of long form journalism and short fiction.



Laurie Friedman is the author of over one hundred critically acclaimed picture books, chapter books, and novels for young readers including the bestselling Mallory McDonald chapter book series, the “Moose the Dog” and “Silly Milly” easy reader series, and many rhyming picture books, including the “Love, Ruby Valentine” series. She has received many awards for her work. Laurie speaks at schools and literary conferences across the country, and also works as a ghostwriter and an independent editor helping other writers shape and sell their stories. She attended Tulane University in New Orleans and the Sorbonne in Paris, France. Before becoming an author, she worked in advertising in New York.



Yolande-Clark Jackson is a multi-media creative communicator and consultant who has worked in various areas of publishing. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction and is an award-winning personal essayist and author of the award-winning children’s book, “Rocko’s Big Launch.” Yolande has published writing on multiple platforms and has been both a teaching artist and an artist-in-residence.

“I just wanted to congratulate you again on another successful year of the La Plume project. What you do for these young artists is incredibly inspiring and important. I am grateful to have been included. It was an honor to share my story and my perspective on publishing. and it was a joy to witness how well these young writers were encouraged and celebrated.” 



Betsy Devany is a writer and photographer. She wrote and illustrated her first picture book at age nine. She is certain that elements of it have found their way into her writing today. Years later, she was inspired anew to write for children after having her own children. Today, she has published picture books, chapter books, middle grade and young adult novels. Betsy has been honored nine times since 2007 in the prestigious writing competition, New Voices in Children’s Literature: Tassy Walden Award. Her picture book featuring Norman the gorilla won the 2011 Barbara Karlin Grant Runner-up.

Thank you for this opportunity to be a judge again. I LOVE reading the kids’ stories, and their talent seems beyond their years. I was truly inspired by the extent of their work. We have to both encourage and mentor budding writers. It is an honor to volunteer for this competition. I love how you’re offering a creative writing workshops to the finalists.” 


Mette Tommerup is a painter from Denmark, who lives and works in Miami. She is best known for creating large-scale works where the use of raw uncut canvases and pigments are meant to develop the work through a process, including, but not limited to, exposure to natural elements, and a pilgrimage from inception to completion. Her large-scale art is characterized by exploration, liberation, deconstruction, and immersive performance activation.
Besides numerous awards, Mette works are in the permanent collections such as the ones of Perez Art Museum Miami, The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum at FIU, The Lowe Art Museum at University of Miami, and inclusion in numerous private collections internationally and in the United States.